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In the interest of full disclosure, let me explain why I'm reviewing this album. To be honest, I have never really listened to Anthrax all that much; I don't know why, but as far as the "Big 4" thrash bands are concerned, I always found Anthrax the least interesting. I remember hearing "Bring the Noise" in the 90s and being kind of unimpressed: it didn't strike me as very good metal or rap. However, today I decided to fill in some of the gaps in my "thrash education," and give Anthrax a listen. I figured I could start with Among the Living, widely acknowledged to be one of their classic albums. Instead, I decided on a whim to go in a different direction, and listen to one of their most reviled albums. And I'm glad I did, because I am actually enjoying the hell out of this record!
I know, Volume 8-The Threat Is Real is not really thrash, strictly speaking. It's certainly not 80s thrash, and you know what? That's okay with me. 80s thrash is gone, and it's never coming back. Metallica isn't that young group of metalheads that recorded Ride the Lightning, and even the mighty Slayer aren't what they once were. And Megadeth hasn't really been great ever since Mustaine gave up on heroin...
So let's look at Volume 8 for what it IS, instead of what it is not. And what it is, as far as I'm concerned, is a very solid record with some varied musical influences that come from well outside the world of thrash. "Crush," the opening track, with its tom-heavy drum sound grabbed my interest right away. There was a headlong momentum to the track that brought a smile to my face. It's really too bad that Anthrax would eventually part ways with John Bush, because his robust voice really brings a lot of depth to the band's sound that is missing from the records that feature Belladonna.
I mentioned the drums above, and I'd like to spend a little more time on that subject. Even though I like Scott Ian, and I think he's an energetic guitarist with a lot of spunk, I don't think he's a great guitarist. Charlie Benante, though, really impresses me. He's not a one trick pony, like a lot of metal drummers. He can lay down a mellow groove (as he does on much of "Inside Out") or he can let it rip with thundering, up-tempo assaults (I think "604" is a good, albeit brief example).
Volume 8 is not perfect, of course. "Toast to the Extras" is an incredibly lame, Aerosmith-flavored country rock track that is just silly. Even Metallica has mostly avoided sounding this twangy! And "Cupajoe" is a complete waste of time. Mercifully brief, it's sounds like one of those tongue twisters that theatre majors do to warm up their voices (as Jack Black does in the movie School of Rock: "Lips, teeth, tip of the tongue"). No doubt, many thrash fans hate the Poison-ish ballad "Pieces." But c'mon, bassist Frankie Bello had just lost his brother, who was shot dead in New York. I am impressed by a musician who can turn pain into heartfelt music, even if that music falls outside of their usual purview. The big difference between something like "Pieces" is as great as the difference between losing a beloved family member and losing a stripper/girlfriend to another rock star. (Which was reportedly the inspiration for Poison's "Every Rose Has its Thorn.")
Volume 8-The Threat Is Real is not going to be to every metal fan's liking. That much is obvious from reading many of the reviews of the record, here and elsewhere. But I try to judge every album on its own merits, as much as possible. And I found the album to be an enjoyable listen. Not a metal classic, but worth my time.
This album is Anthrax's own 'Load'. Man (or should I say Not Man), this is a broad take on modern metal and rock. And yes, country music too, just what Metallica did two years earlier. So, no thrash metal mentioned yet, but hey, you won't find it here anyways. I understand if a band stagnates and wants to do something different, but for fuck's sake, this is not-so-few steps over that border, that changing the band's name would have been a must, not just "in order".
'Crush' is like a Kiss song played with almost constant multilayered tom drum beats and modern downtuned guitars. It is far from crushing, because downtuned isn't a synonym of "heavy". 'Catharsis' is the band's most mainstream song ever together with last album's 'Nothing', but if it works, then it works! A fine, hellishly rolling good song, if you don't wait for thrash metal, which you shouldn't be doing at all. Nu-yet-good 'Inside Out' goes a bit too Fugazi at times, but John Bush's catchy vocal lines keep it over the surface. 'Piss n Vinegar' is a stomping rocker, similar to those that 1998's 'Stomp 442' was filled with. '604' is a "funny" fastie, in S.O.D. way, but... And then it comes; the fucking country song 'Toast to the Extras'. It has a true redneck vibe to it, but this is a fucking Anthrax song?! Man... I mean Not Man.... 'Born Again Idiot' is a Pantera style piece, and definitely the harshest of the album's songs. But harsh isn't a synonym of "good". Hey, it is the half-way point now, and what the hell is going on on this album? Exactly.
'Killing Box' is like Anthrax going Primus or something, but in a totally torpid way. 'Harms Way', a slow rocker, gets the album rolling after a long period. Or does it really? Nope, as 'Hog Tied', with Kiss riff played in nu-style, does its best to drop the level of quality again. And it does, with a big thank to the use of guitar talk box, reminding me of Richie Sambora. Thanks for that, heh. With 'Big Fat', the album goes to Corrosion Of Conformity style stuff and really rocking again. 'Cupajoe', another S.O.D. thingy, cuts the flow before it has even started. 'Alpha Male' is a bland rocker, followed by another slower song, 'Stealing from a Thief', which is another good slow song on the album! Not Man, there's something weird here, right? I mean slow songs work better than the majority of faster pieces. Anyways there is a hidden bonus track, which is extremely soft. The songwriting is bloody broad, but partly so bloody boring. I would have waited something like these songs on Anthrax's mini-albums or b-sides.
During the album, there's a lot of various instruments used, that feel more like curiosities: Theremin, blues harp and slide guitar. But then again, this is more of a rock album than a metal album. Pantera's Dimebag Darrell and Phil Anselmo make appearances on a couple of songs, but also these are more like curiosities. Sound-wise this is on heavy and organic side, but the downtuned guitars have never been my favorite thing, and they aren't particularly heavy either. The band aren't on their best here, not even close. The rhythm section is the element that works the best here. Actually there's quite big chunks of groove on some of the songs. And so work John Bush's vocals, I've always liked his characteristic and a bit harsh voice. The cover art is a small part of astonishing painting printed on the opening lyrics sheet. The lyrics are very streetwise.
When picking out the truly good songs, I can count them with one hand's fingers. So, there's EP's worth of good music on this album. Surely, it is all listenable, but just scarcely so at times. In my opinion, this is the worst Anthrax album ever, but only their second bad one (the predecessor, 'Stomp 442', was plagued by the same problem; just a few goodies). This just does not feel like it was Anthrax. The album's name proved to be ill-boding.
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2009)
Second half of the nineties. The era when thrash was truly dead and even death metal became a bland and generic imitation of itself. The second half of the nineties, when power metal was starting to make a comeback but the scene was dominated by the upcoming gothic metal scene with tarts in dresses, Gothenburg hippies and of course the third wave of black metal. All in all, the most boring era ever within the metal scene.
Either thrash bands were gone during these days or they were releasing mediocre albums with modern influences just to stay alive for a while. Anthrax were no exception. The band had killed themselves and their credibility when they released Stomp442 in 1995. Now fortunately this implied that anything new they’d release afterwards, would be better no matter what. And so it was! Volume 8 is a nice little album. Far from classic, but a nice groovy album nonetheless if you’d be able to forget the name Anthrax being on the cover.
Now I know many people claim Anthrax’ best Bush-era songs would be Room For One More, Potters Field or What Doesn’t Die, but each and everyone keeps forgetting Crush. The opening song on this album probably is their heaviest non-thrash song with John Bush up until now (2009 that is). And apart from that it features a massive main riff, catchy rhythm and excellent chorus. With a song like this I do not care this is not a classic speed or thrash metal album. This is the kind of quality heavy post-thrash song Anthrax used on half the Sound Of White Noise album and maybe even better at that.
Another big difference with Stomp442 is the fact that Volume 8 sounds more laid back, more at ease. Not just the performance but the production as well. Stomp442 was overly organised and too straight forward. Volume 8 is not. The band tries different stuff like the country song 'Toast to the Extras' which actually is great with John Bush on vocals. The groove-metal songs on the album have gotten more space to breathe and are, as said, played more laid back and less neurotic that before. Best songs, apart from the earlier mentioned masterpiece Crush, are 'Catharsis', 'Inside Out', 'Born Again Idiot' and 'Killing Box'.
The two SOD-ish joke songs ‘604’ and ‘Cupajoe’ are funny but nowhere as good as any real SOD joke and they obviously don’t fit a regular Anthrax album that well. But it’s good to hear the band having fun again and doing whatever they want, shaking off the chains which earlier forced them to make Stomp442. And that attitude and atmosphere is exactly what makes this album decent.
Even though this album will never be in anyone’s list of favourite/best Anthrax albums, it’s good to hear the band we’re slowly getting human again after the forced and neurotic 1995 debacle. Volume 8 is a laid back album from the hibernation-era, revealing a band at least having fun with each other again. And that was more than enough for me.
This is one of those albums that is just difficult to fully wrap yourself around. It isn’t really good by any standard of an entire album, but individually there are snippets of pretty good embodiments of groove metal as first espoused by Pantera. To be fully forthcoming, I don’t like this style of metal as a whole because of its tedious nature, but there are naturally some exceptions here and there. “Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real” puts off some pleasing musical vibes from time to time, but ultimately fails as a whole due to a complete utter lack of direction and a really jaded duality of comedy and seriousness. What manifests as a result are 3 completely unrelated approaches to songwriting, all of which clash with each other.
The first of these 3 directions, also being the strongest, is the Pantera inspired groove metal that dominates the most musically serious songs on here. John Bush’s vocals sound a little closer to a Scott Weiland trying to sound like Phil Anselmo than an authentic version of said vocalist, but aside from that, songs like “Crush”, “Born Again Idiot” and “Stealing From A Thief” are pretty clear representations of a “Far Beyond Driven” approach to 90s Metal. Filling the lead guitar vacuum still being felt by Dan Spitz’s absence is Dimebag, further pushing a good number of these songs in a Pantera direction. The standout song in this sort of sub-album within the album is “Inside Out”, which basically pulls out a few interesting acoustic and clean guitar ballad ideas from “The Great Southern Trendkill” and combining it with the dark and mechanical groove style dominating this album and some hard core styled vocal work that succeeds in not being completely grating.
Though the generally dark and groovy guitar tone remains constant throughout the album, a lot of what is on here reverts back to the trendy alternative rock/grunge sound heard on the previous two albums, thus giving us the 2nd direction. “Catharsis” and “Piss N’ Vinegar” are the worst offenders in combining lazy rock riffs, constant and repetitive amateur straight beats that Benante used to use as rest periods between thrashing and blasting, and plenty of crappy baritone yells that predict a world dominated by the mediocrity of Godsmack. “Alpha Male” actually combines groove metal with this shallow form of hard rock, and somehow manages to sneak in a little 7/8 meter section that goes completely unnoticed between all of the hypnotic and repetitious idea fragments.
And then to finish off any chance of this being a consistent listen, we are offered an overlarge helping of novelty songs that makes one wonder if this is actually a Metal band trying to emulate Weird Al Yankovic. The highlights in this department are two really half-assed attempts at reviving the spirit of S.O.D. in “604” and “Cupajoe”, the latter of which features Scott Ian doing the vocals. When you think about it, this sort of 30-40 second duration Hard Core style is the ideal alternative to Groove Metal because it also features 1-3 riffs yet won’t waste 4 or 5 minutes of your day. “Toast To The Extras” is a really bad Country Rock song, probably inspired by Metallica’s equally terrible “Momma Said”, definitely something that would have been better off not being released at all, not even as a b-side to a single. Then things just sort of die off at the end with a hidden ballad dubbed “Pieces”, basically another pop acoustic ballad in the vain of Radiohead and Goo Goo Dolls that isn’t worth anyone’s time.
When all is said and done, though this doesn’t quite suck as much as a lot of stuff coming out at this time, it still basically sucks. I could maybe rationalize a fan of Pantera spending 4 or 5 dollars for this in a bargain bin, but really you might as well just pick up one of their albums if that’s what you’re into. If you are someone who is just discovering Anthrax through their early material, this is something that should not be looked into at all, nor is that the case with any other album they’ve put out with John Bush. Just let these musical abortions decay away into dust and remember this band for what they contributed to the glorious time period that the 80s were for heavy metal.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 28, 2009.
I was reading an article on the “Thrash Revival” the other day. It was pretty interesting, featuring interviews with a lot of the scene’s key players (band members, producers, label owners). One thing in particular that caught my eye was the part of the article discussing the downfall of thrash in the 90’s, in wake of grunge and numetal. Scott Ian was particularly bitter about how the labels rejected Anthrax, writing them off as a spent 80’s metal band playing outdated crap. Of course, I found Scotty’s woes hilarious. While I certainly feel for his plight (and all the other competent thrashers that got ousted back then), it doesn’t excuse the fact that they weren’t playing outdated thrash metal in the 90’s: Anthrax was playing the same bullshit groove metal/modern rock that was oh-so-popular at the end of the decade (see: Pantera, Prong, Godsmack, Pro-Pain). Perhaps the mean ‘ol labels weren’t just being dicks. Perhaps they recognized that Anthrax of the 90’s just plain fucking sucked. For example, their eighth album Vol. 8: The Threat is Real.
The album opens with one of those Pantera-inspired one-riff wonders that just drag their ass around without getting anything done. This one happens to be called “Crush,” not that it’s any different than countless other “Walk” clones. It’s shit like that this that really makes me reanalyze other 90’s ‘thrash’ albums like Annihilator’s King of the Kill or Sacred Reich’s Heal and realize that they really weren’t that bad in comparison. And when that track is finally over….Jesus, is that the Foo Fighters? No, it’s track two, “Catharsis,” which embodies about half of the songs on this album. The other half are like track three, “Inside Out,” i.e. shitty nu-metal. This includes track four, “Piss N Vinegar.” Wait a minute, is that the “Locomotive Breath” riff? Pretty much, buried in modern corporate ‘metal’ backwash. Track five is a flaccid attempt at recalling the good old SOD days, without either the humor or the good taste in riffage.
I’d have liked to criticize all of the tracks on this album like I did for Stomp 442, but this time around, it’s been just too damn tiring. It’s usually about track six (the hokey country-rocker “Toast to the Extras”) that I mentally clock out of this album. The rest is basically the same bullshit from the album’s beginning. Anthrax may take this material seriously, but I can’t. It’s just too fucking horrible. There’s yet another hopeless SOD parody (“Cupajoe”), one that sounds like a Rob Zombie reject (“Killing Box”), and a boatload of half-Pantera, half-Stone Temple Pilots backwash. Feel free to cringe at the hidden ballad too.
If Scotty is still wondering why Anthrax isn’t catching on, he should know that they brought it on themselves. They still aren’t playing thrash, as evidenced by a ’05 re-recording of “Deathrider” that’s fucking atrocious (it’s played in half-time, with John Bush on vocals. Why would Charlie Benante need to play in half-time?). As of this writing they’re working on a new release with a new singer, but with garbage like this and WCFYA not that far behind them, I fear for the worst. As usual, the final word here is AVOID. I know I’ll never listen to this again. And you shouldn’t either.
This is one of those albums I own that stands out in my collection--as nothing else I own sounds quite like it or makes me feel in a similar way to the way this makes me feel.... and that feeling... is called "happy."
In Anthrax's usual way, the music is rather peppy and upbeat--though probably more so than usual. Now, I usually despise really happy crap, but the music itself isn't what's so happy--it's the idea that I've used the CD as a mood lightener from time to time, now about that music...
There are two extremely short tracks written, apparently for fun that I actually enjoy. "604" and "Cupajoe"--the former being written about a fat girl the band viewed in a tabloid who weighed 604 pounds, the latter about Anthrax's apparent addiction to coffee. Both of these tracks make up for their awkward shortness with about the heaviest riffing on the album.
My personal favorites are (yeah, in this order) Catharsis, Inside Out, Crush, Toast to the Extras, Born Again Idiot, and the secret track, Pieces, that starts at the 8-minute mark after Stealing From A Thief. Toast to the Extras opens with acoustic guitar, then dives headlong ... into... a mild melodic track that is strangely compelling. Pieces is entirely acoustic and (I believe) sung by bassist Frank Bello, as the song is about his brother who was murdered in New York. Yes, people apparently get killed there. Dimebag Darrel and Vinnie Paul make a guest appearance on the album, and that appearance is in Inside Out, which varies wildly from softly played guitar verses to rampaging, thrashy choruses. Catharsis, I guess I like, most of all because of the lyrics which include the line "Angels in my heart, devils in my eyes" which I've often equated to myself (I give off that "do not touch" vibe all to often, but treat people pretty well). The chorus, like many on the album, is pretty catchy, and the song has a feeling of standard Heavy Metal spliced with Thrash's energy.
Overall the record does a good job of reminding of "Sound of White Noise," but gives off the impression of a band that has grown musically and mellowed out a tad--as though they're finally accepting that Metal is no longer the king in more popular music, and went back to doing what they like. Unlike "Stomp 442" this doesn't occasionally reek of "trying to maintain a presence in an Alternative world." Everything here is Metal, even if the thrash has calmed a little. It's guitar-heavy, rather the way Metal should be, not bass-heavy like a lot of crap coming out around the time this album was released (or like now for that matter).
No Anthrax/John Bush fan should miss, especially as his vocals sound better than ever and run a frantic gamut from fierce yelling to passive singing (Inside Out is a good example). To me it's a step up from arguably the best John Bush-led Anthrax, SoWN, making this one just as good if not better.
This is record i think, half metal / half hardcore sounding... A new kind of Anthrax that ended up sounding unique and tasteful by the mix of those styles. Volume 8, although being a great album is not, i repeat, is not an Anthrax album for all Anthrax fans. Older ones could enjoy this or possibily feel displeased with the new sounding of this "Anthrax goes modern rock", and new fans can be acquired by the band with this fresh combination of styles, that´s far, far away from their mosh thrashiest days...
Although i find that Joey Belladona is and always will be the ultimate Anthrax singer, and despite not being so enthusiastic about John Bush´s vocals (can you believe Metallica wanted this guy to sing for them in the beginning of their carrer, instead of Hetfield?), i think he cuts the songs very well and really makes his job...
This alternative pearl was written almost entirely by drummer Charlie Benante, with only some little musical touches from Scott and Bello here and there...and it starts kicking ass with a really crushing song, "Crush" with some great drum beats, almost pounding your heart out when listening to them, and some reeeaaallly groovy guitar sound by Scott. Next comes "Catharsis", a quite commercial song but very catchy at the same time, and then comes one of the best songs here...oohhh yes...i´m talking about "Inside Out", with those heavy guitars by Scott and Charlie, those delicious acoustic interludes in the middle of the song, and an amazing fuckin´solo by their lead guitar player on service for this one: Dimebag Darrell.
"Piss n´Vinigar" does not convince at all as an Anthrax song and it´s a little bit predictable and a little boring, "604" is one of their typical humourous acts, a little thrashy song with some silly lyrics that goes out for 35 sec... and then comes Anthrax´s really big fuck up on this album..."Toast to the Extras" which is not a totally bad song but it´s really an awful tribute to the country music...avoid this one and skip it...
Then the really good songs return and with a character of their own: "Born again Idiot" (great riffs), "Killing Box" (with Phil "drunk" Anselmo on vocals with Bush), "Harms Way" (commercial like, but like "Catharsis" very good!), "Hog Tied" ( really heavy intro and song) and "Big Fat"( not very special but also good...)
Another funny moment comes with "Cupajoe". Remember S.O.D ´s "Milk" lyrics? Well this is a progressive speed pacing song of 46 sec that talks about...coffee...simple, but funny..."Alpha Male" is no big deal and after it comes another fine moment by Anthrax on this album..."Stealing from a Thief", a fuckinigly heavy song with some groove attached to it and a great vibe...The bonus acoustic track is different, but good. Clean melodies and guitar solos with a excelent voice makes this really the perfect way for Anthrax to close this record.
It´s a good album, that´s all i can say...check out if it makes your style or not...but there´s more than one style to be appreciated here. You can see that this is a really grown up Anthrax with a new sense of things...Old ones, if you have "Among the Living" feel satisfied with it and new fans, adquire this album. It´s worth all of the money.